Covid-19: A real communist consciousness is welling up from below

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03/04/2020 by socialistfight

By Gerry Downing

Geographic distribution of cumulative number of reported COVID-19 cases per 100 000 population, worldwide, as of 3 April 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic respects no class barriers. It has infected Britain’s Prince Charles to Boris Johnson and the excretable Dominic Cummings to top US political leaders and officials. Nothing could better expose the social values of those neoliberal buffoons who are hoist in their own petard. Trump next we all hope!

There has been much talk of communism engulfing us all now.  And here the contradiction of “we are all in it together” emerges. On the one hand the capitalists, their leading politicians  and their ideologues and mass media apologists now threaten us with the nightmare societies of Joe Stalin and Kim Jong Un if we reject neoliberalism – which is essential to capitalist power relations and is not really opposed to Keynesianism in the end. Cult Stalinist/Maoist groups bolster this imperialist anti-communist propaganda by assuring us that that is what the elemental human aspiration for universal human equality- who does not despise the snob? – leads to and this is what communism really is. On the other hand a real communist consciousness is welling up from below in response to this crisis. 

Local groups have emerged in every continent, country, region, and community to defend and assist the most vulnerable.  To make sure they don’t starve and have the proper medical and practical assistance they need. Governments have been obliged to respond to this by decreeing no evictions, rent and rates deferments, no payment of dividends and bonuses of millions to top CEOs. 

This elemental welling up of communist consciousness, our essential species being, Marx observed (we are cooperative co-producers of all wealth), was manifest in an extended moral dilemma Radio 4 discussion. If you only have a few respirators and many patients needing how do you prioritise who lives and who dies? The young before the old? If the young person is a serial killer or a sex abuser and the old person is a doctor or nurse who could save many lives if they recover that will not work. If a more important patient arrives whose survival would be more beneficial to the community in general do we take the respirator off a less important/deserving case? The Christian moralists argued for a strictly first come first served basis; all human life was precious; all should be treated equally as the anti-abortion right to life fundamentalists argue. But this will not work in the real world of appalling choices doctors and nurses must make.

“Read Trotsky’s their Morals and Ours” I mentally screamed at the debate. “The end may justify the means as long as there is something that justifies the end.” This is a conflict between two social systems and everything that advances the revolution is morally correct and everything that puts individual survival before the survival of the class and that cause is morally wrong and indefensible.  What genuine leftist socialist has not counterposed the privileges treatment of Prince Charles and Boris Johnson and others similar in getting tested with the frontline NHS and care home staff who cannot get proper PPE equipment, let alone tests? And how is it Germany and South Korea followed the lessons of China; test, test, test, follow up contacts, isolate, ban all crowds, close all non-essential shops and sporting events and test, test, test. For the past several days the daily No 10 Downing Street press conferences are dominated by this obvious massive failure.

A police officer stands at the ready in a small market, as a local volunteer with a face mask walks away after distributing soap and detergent in an effort to avoid the spread the new coronavirus, in the Rocinha slum of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)A police officer stands at the ready in a small market, as a local volunteer with a face mask walks away after distributing soap and detergent in an effort to avoid the spread the new coronavirus, in the Rocinha slum of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)The Associated Press

And Brazil tops the lot (rivalled by India’s Modi and Hungary’s Orbán) for an elected dictator attempting to impose nationalist free market anti-social values on a nation that is strongly resisting him. Bolsonaro has been defied by state governors representing some 200 million of the country’s 210 million people, previously his lapdogs, because the consciousness that “we are all in it together” has a certain resonance. His approval ratings have plummeted from 67% in late January to 51% now. This is far different to what we had in 2008 when David Cameron used it to justify austerity with the willing assistance of the entire TU bureaucracy.

 Geffen sent a virtual postcard to his 84,000 followers to let them know he was feeling the hardships of enforced solitude. Photograph: BFA/Rex/Shutterstock

Revulsion at the privileges of the billionaires is making itself heard. Billionaire David Geffen (Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain) sent his solidarity message from his private yacht where he is self-isolated like the single mom in Brixton and pissed everyone off. Celebrities have indicated their chagrin at being side-lined by the new Coronavirus superstar.  They have offered their solidarity to be met with outrage. Outrage at privilege has not been at this level since the late 1960s and the post WWI and WWII revolutionary upsurges.

“I can only speak for the Hungarian people, and they don’t want any migration,” said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán | Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images

But not in the same way. Contradictory emotions of the more backward sections of the oppressed in the US, Britain, India, Hungary etc. have seen these government leaders rise in popularity as they are “saving the nation”. Although explicitly fascists groups are being marginalised right populism is thriving and growing. Powers acquired now will not be ceded easily; Hungary’s Orbán indefinite timed Emergency Law rule by decree is not compatible with EU membership liberal MEPs are pointing out. The bill was approved by Orbán’s Fidesz party and other government supporters by 137 votes in favour to 53 against. It needed 133 votes to pass. This right wing populist remains high in the polls, with far right and outright fascist parties like the Jobbik supporting him in that vote.

Italy’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte has surged 27 points in one poll in a global national war effort mentality and France’s Macron is up 15%. Boris Johnson is riding high in the polls and Trump has just had a flip to move within 2 points of Biden, 49% to 47%, according to jus ton poll. But the poll of polls still gives Biden a 6 point lead. But Trump’s modest rise in this war situation. Old George Bush hit 90% in the Gulf War. As Simon Tisdall tells us in the Guardian when asked if the country is heading in the right direction the answer is no by 55% to 38%. When the nasty stuff hits the fan Trump’s approval rates will plummet, along with many other right populists globally.

Turkey will not release political prisoners in the mass release of prisoners as is now being considered in many other lands because of the rapid spread of coronavirus infections in prison conditions. India is going through horrific times. After the slaughter of Muslims urged on by the Hindu chauvinist criminal Modi the lockdown has driven the poor labours from the cities because they are suddenly with no money or food. Transport is almost shut down also so they must walk with their families hundreds of miles to their villages. Many are dying on the way. And when they get home many villages try to stop them entering lest they have the coronavirus.   But even though Modi hates these Dalits, tribes and Muslims still he has been forced to set up camps for them in the self-interest of stopping the pandemic spreading. Despite all this Modi’s approval rating remains high at 74%.

And what can the Brexiteers now say when Boris and Cummings showed their anti-EU xenophobia by refusing to take part in a joint European tender for emergency medical equipment, initially admitting Brexit was the motivation then pathetically saying it was because of a missed email? Just 2,000 frontline NHS staff have been tested out of 500,000. Britain tests 8,000 hospital patients daily, Germany tests 70,000. In a chart in Guardian on 2 April on page 6 we learn that Bahrain tests 20,075 per million of its population, Britain tests 2,109, the US 447 (!) and Japan 257. We know where this pandemic is just about to spread with little resistance.

Ireland (the South) imposed lockdown weeks before Britain. On Tuesday the growth of new confirmed cases was 15%, down from 33% before the lockdown.  The ultimate test is the death rate. This is still increasing but that is a result of previous infections working through. We must take the global lessons. China locked down Wuhan, tested and tested and followed contacts and decreed forced isolation. Germany and South Korea tested and tested far more than Britain, Italy or Spain let alone the US.  The differences are enormous in the death rates for the latter two; Britain and the US have their appalling horror story to come but the next two to three weeks will show us Brexit great nation nationalist isolationism coming home to roost.

Ireland is regretting it has regressed from testing the 5000 it did a few weeks ago because of a shortage of materials used in the manufacture of the swabs and laboratory testing substances. Boris Johnson uses the same story. The Guardian on 2 April (p. 9) tells us that Professor Nicola Stonehouse says there is an overreliance on specifies reagents, enzymes and other chemicals, “there are many reagents you can use, we can do this, and with appropriate controls, the risks are low and the benefits could be high”. Britain, a country 12 times Ireland population, is not testing much more than that, 6,000 only because of the neo liberal destruction of the NHS and austerity, now clearly exposed as a political choice and not a necessity as they lied. And there is no promise of future mas testing in Britain.

And the hostile environment in Universal Credit may well be abandoned under this pressure if we can mobilise the one million who have just signed on because the gig economy and the bogus self-employment agencies make sure that promises of 80% of wages by Johnson mean nothing to these. The hostile environment was not needed in reality that apart from capitalism’s need to increase its rate of profit and privileges for its parasitic ruling classes. 

Who are now obviously the more important and vital human beings for our survival? Here communist consciousness springs up from below. I just read a poem in the Morning Star by a truck driver Keith Barrett (or a poet empathising with a truck driver). Three months ago, he was the scum of the earth. Now he is an essential worker. Everywhere he goes he is treated with respect now: “Before we realised, or had to admit, truck drivers are in great need”. Now the frontline NHS staff, the care home workers, the cleaners, binmen and all rubbish collectors, emergency and maintenance workers are all essential workers, deserving of out utmost respect. And their self-respect is growing in line with that. As is the self-confidence of the entire working class.   

So, a time of great danger. And a time of great possibilities for revolutionaries if we can connect with that well spring of communist consciousness springing up. 

Morning Star, March 27: POETRY: The Best Job in the World by Keith Barrett

All of a sudden
Out of the blue
I’ve got a better job than a few
It’s true

I’ve gone from being a second-rate fucker
To a key worker
A mobile self-isolating trucker

I can travel the motorways at fifty-six miles per hour
I am now a key worker
I am suddenly
A man of power

Travelling the roads
With the pedal to the metal
Watching the world go by unrestricted
That’s now some kinda
special fettle

From second-class citizen
To respected member of society
In the blink of an eye
I wonder why
The general public seem to have changed their perspective
The Government as well
Since they have been recently elected

No longer are us truck drivers treated like fools
We don’t even have to bother at the minute
With all the tachograph rules
As we drive through the darkness to deliver the load
Once again
Like in the olden days
We are knights of the road

Everybody seems to be on our side
I wonder
Is that because the coronavirus has no class divide
I can blow on me air horns until me heart’s content
As long as I self-isolate
In me tin tent

I have the best job ever
As we roll up at the supermarket superstore
‘Good Morning driver’
‘This way driver’
‘Thank you driver’
Respect in da house like never before

I’m now what they call
A key worker
A worker that’s key
An asset to the welfare of the folk
In this country
Was I not that before then?
I ask
A question to myself
Ah well erm well
That was before the virus
Was a threat to everyone’s health
Before the stockpiling and the selfish greed
Before we realised
Or rather
Had to admit
Truck drivers are in great need

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